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Prime Minister John Key does not believe the Government can legally intervene over funding for Oamaru Hospital and Waitaki district health services facing the threat of less money from the Southern District Health Board.
Mr Key visited Oamaru businesses and officially opened the North Oamaru Business Park yesterday, but his schedule did not include visiting Oamaru Hospital or talking to Waitaki District Health Board directors over a 5% cut in funding from the Southern board, equivalent to almost $500,000.
The Waitaki District Council-owned Waitaki District Health Services, which owns and operates the hospital, has warned that will mean major cuts in services and, possible staff redundancies.
Its refusal to accept the cut was supported by a protest march last month which drew about 2500 people.
Asked by the Otago Daily Times about the funding issue, Mr Key said he was aware of what was happening. The Government understood regional health services were very important to the community, which was why it had appointed commissioners in June to take over from the board, so it could be confident of where money was being spent.
The commissioners were working through future funding with local communities and would come back to the Government with a plan.
Asked if Waitaki could get its own direct funding, instead of through the board, Mr Key said that was unlikely because of the structure of bulk funding.
He hoped the commissioners would listen to local views on funding, but did not believe the Government could legally direct them over funding for Oamaru Hospital.